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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The John Hunt Park Master Plan

John Hunt Park, with the approximate Master Plan area (indicated by the blue boundary). Note the remnants of the runways of the old airport that closed in 1967.  Google Earth
If you looked at a list of all of the facilities currently present at John Hunt Park, you would think that it's a great recreational space. There are tennis courts, soccer fields, a playground, a golf course, the Iceplex... But  in between these features there are shipping containers, fields of dirt and gravel, and vast stretches of pavement-- remnants of runways from an airport that occupied the site until the 1960s. These eyesores isolate the park's facilities from one another-- a park should connect its features, not separate them.

Enter the John Hunt Park Master Plan. Its goal is to tie in all of the great facilities that already exist and make the 387-acre John Hunt into the city's "Central Park," as Mayor Battle calls it.

The John Hunt Park Master Plan. Source: City of Huntsville
The main features of the concept:

Expanded athletic facilities-- This will enhance the tennis and baseball facilities currently present at John Hunt, in order to attract larger tournaments to the city.
Amphitheater- for concerts, outdoor movies, performances, etc. This will be the center of a 15-acre "outdoor festival area" where large events and festivals will be held.
Expanded Iceplex- at least one new rink for the Iceplex is proposed.
New Indoor Rec Facilities-- a multi-purpose building is proposed to replace the existing Jaycees building; a 4,000-seat athletic facility is also planned.
More Greenspace, Trails-- the underutilized land currently in between John Hunt Park's facilities will become usable greenspace, with more trails, pavilions, and landscaping improvements.
A new park on Triana Blvd.- Some of the soccer fields will be moved to make way for a new Kid's Space, so they will move to a new park south of McDonnell Elementary.
The proposed park off Triana Blvd. Credit: City of Huntsville
One potentially controversial aspect of the Master Plan is that it will carve out 25 acres on the corner of Airport and the Parkway, which the city will sell in order to pay for the improvements called for in the plan. The proposed "commercial tract" includes a fire station and the Veteran's Memorial Museum, which will both be moved-- a new fire station will be built on Drake Ave., and the museum will move to the old National Guard armory. While they are located on private property, the trailer home dealership and the vacant Copeland's restaurant will likely be part of the redevelopment.

Note that the existing Kid's Space will not be moved as originally planned last year. This means that while the playground will remain for the time being, chances are that it will now be surrounded by commercial buildings or even a large parking lot. The original plan, which encountered opposition from the volunteer group responsible for building the playground nearly 20 years ago, called for Kid's Space to be moved 1500 ft. west from its current site, enlarging it and connecting it to the rest of the park. The new playground is still part of the long-term plans, as well as a children's "splash pad."

Let me know what you think about the concept. The drawings above are not set in stone, and opinions are welcome. The City has set up a website (Imagine Huntsville) to collect ideas from the public, and there will be several meetings to be held to field comments before November, when the Master Plan is scheduled to be adopted by the Planning Commission.

Final Update: On 11/21, the Planning Commission unanimously passed the Master Plan. This allows the City to move forward on soliciting proposals for the sale of the 25-acre commercial tract. The proceeds of this sale will go towards the purchase the land for the Triana Blvd. park, as well as begin improvements to John Hunt south of Airport Rd.  


Anonymous said...

There is a shopping center in south Austin, TX that incorporated a play ground with restaurants which itself was centered in a larger retail footprint. http://goo.gl/maps/vwkcN
It made for a nice meeting place and a convenient lunch or snack. It would be worth exploring something similar for the Kid's Space play area.

Chris said...

Any chance we could get an outdoor ball hockey rink added to this? There's one in Madison and one on the Arsenal, but nothing like it in Huntsville.

Anonymous said...

I've thought for years that a small water park would be ideal near Kid's Space. I recall taking my own kids there, but it was scorching hot in the summer with little shade. There are kids at the tiny water area at Bridgestreet, so anything a little larger would be well used and great summer fun.

Anonymous said...

Aw. That old airport is where the SCCA holds competitive car racing events, and it's where I've taught a bunch of people to drive a manual transmission. I like good shopping, but it's nice to have a good motorsports place. . .

Anonymous said...

How should people access this space? It would be really nice if there was an included or directly adjacent residential component, or at a minimum, good sidewalks and bike facilities connecting to and traversing through the park so that people would have an option other than driving.

Anonymous said...

So I guess Walmart will end up getting the corner closest to the Parkway?

James said...

The city-owned commercial tract at the corner of the Airport and the Parkway is subject to a Request for Proposals (RFP) where prospective developers will compete for the purchase and development of the 25-acre site. Since the RFP hasn't been released yet, and no bids have been received, all rumors of potential retailers at that site are not true; a developer will likely be chosen sometime next year. Even after that, it may be several years before the site is developed, as there are active tenants (e.g. the fire station) on the property.

Anonymous said...

Why the heck didn't my comment get posted. Arrrrg. I'm against this developement. We have an over abundance of soccer fields and greenspace. Keep the space for auto related events. It's the only one we have. Use the current soccer fields for soccer.